Unlike state criminal investigations, when the federal government is investigating a crime, they often notify a suspect that the investigation is ongoing by sending a “target letter.” Among other things, a target letter will inform you that you are part of a grand jury investigation. Understandably, realizing that you are the target of a federal criminal investigation can be a frightening and confusing experience. To protect yourself, you need to know what to do –and what not to do — if you receive a target letter.
Attorney Jonathan Rose has extensive experience protecting and defending clients who are part of a federal criminal investigation and/or prosecution. We know how to respond to a target letter to best protect you and your future and if the investigation results in charges filed against you, we will aggressively defend you throughout the prosecution.
What You Need to Know about a Target Letter
While there are many similarities to how state and federal law enforcement agencies investigate potential crimes, there are some important differences as well. Chief among those differences is the amount of time and resources often devoted to the investigation of federal criminal offenses. This is particularly relevant when the alleged crime is a “white-collar” crime, a term used to refer to nonviolent, financially motivated crimes committed by individuals, businesses, and government professionals. Federal investigations involving crimes such as tax evasion, money laundering, cyber crimes, and healthcare fraud can span months, even years, and may involve multiple law enforcement agencies.
As part of a federal investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) or another related federal agency, may send out a target letter to a suspect. A target letter will typically include:
- Notification that you are the target or witness in a federal criminal investigation
- The alleged criminal conduct being investigated
- Your rights as a suspect or witness
- Any requests the government may have, such as a request to produce documents related to the investigation.
Things to Do and Not Do If You Receive a Target Letter
Opening a letter from the U.S. federal government notifying you that you are the target of a criminal investigation is usually an overwhelming experience, especially if you were unaware that an investigation was underway. Reacting appropriately, however, can be the key to protecting your rights and preserving defenses going forward. It is crucial to know what to do, and what not to do, after receiving a target letter. With that in mind, consider the following:
- Do not ignore the letter. Burying your head in the proverbial sand and doing nothing is not an option. Your status as a suspect will not go away, which means that ignoring a target letter will only make the situation worse and potentially make it harder to mount a successful defense if you are ultimately indicted by the grand jury.
- Do read the letter in its entirety. Read through the entire letter several times to make sure you understand what it says and what it is asking you to do. Pay particular attention to the criminal offense(s) being investigated. The letter may also include deadlines, dates, and even requests to testify in front of the grand jury and/or contact a federal prosecutor. Make note of deadlines and dates; however, do not contact the prosecutor or comply with requests until you have consulted with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
- Do not destroy, hide, or otherwise tamper with potential evidence. Finding out that the federal government is targeting you in a criminal investigation is unnerving, to say the least. Your initial thoughts may focus on getting rid of any evidence that could link you to the alleged crime. Resist the temptation to act on those thoughts because you could end up being charged with obstruction of justice for doing so and you will remove any possibility of not being charged if such action is discovered. You may also interfere with your attorney’s ability to legally exclude the evidence from trial.
- Do consult with a federal criminal defense attorney immediately. To protect your rights and make sure all legal defenses are available to you in the future, contact an experienced federal defense attorney immediately upon receiving a target letter. The best time to prevent a target letter from leading to an indictment is immediately after receipt of the letter – and the best way to achieve that outcome is to have an experienced attorney on your side as soon as possible. If you are ultimately indicted, your attorney will already be working on your defense.
- Do not comply with requests or contact the prosecutor. It is imperative to understand that a request to comply with the production of documents or contact the prosecutor is just that – a request. You are not under a court order to comply with those requests. Your federal criminal defense attorney will review the requests and advise you whether complying with them is in your best interest.
- Do exercise your right to remain silent. White-collar criminal investigations almost always involve numerous potential defendants. When you read the target letter you may instinctively want to discuss the letter with others who may be involved. Do not do this. While attorney-client privilege prohibits your attorney from divulging information relayed to him/her by you, anyone else could be forced to testify about your conversation to a judge or jury. You have a right to remain silent and now is the time to exercise that right.
Contact an Experienced Florida Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you just opened a target letter indicating that you are the target of a federal criminal investigation, the most important thing you can do is contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately. At Jonathan Rose P.A we have the resources, experience, and dedication necessary to protect you and your future if you find yourself in the middle of a federal criminal investigation.
Contact an experienced Florida federal criminal defense attorney Jonathan Rose today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out our online contact form.